When the Steelers started a hall of fame (technically, a "Hall of Honor") in 2017, it made little sense.
The Steelers already had a hall of fame. It's located in Canton, Ohio. Yeah, it's the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but 23 Steelers are enshrined. They've taken over.
But the Steelers forged ahead in the spirit of self-congratulation, immediately diluting the "honor" in the Hall of Honor by including 27 in the inaugural class. (They included all Steelers inducted into Canton.)
This year's class includes:
*Coach Bill Cowher. No argument. #OneRing
*TE Elbie Nickel. How would he fare against today's nickel defense? (Sorry.) Nickel is also on the Steelers’ All-Time Team (they have that, too). He made three Pro Bowls and finished in the top 10 for receiving yards three times in his 11 seasons. Nickel's last season was 1957, so there's barely anybody alive that remembers him, and he's dead.
*WR Hines Ward. No argument. But this is impressive because nobody ever gave Ward a chance. He is definitely the leader of this year's Hall of Honor class. Also on the Steelers’ All-Time Team. #TwoRings
*TE/T Larry Brown. Brown was excellent. He, too, is on the Steelers’ All-Time Team. Brown made one Pro Bowl. He caught a touchdown in Super Bowl IX, the Steelers' first Super Bowl victory. Brown is deserving, but enough already with the Steelers of the '70s. #FourRings
The bigger story might be a couple potential honorees that didn't make it: Broadcaster Myron Cope and S Troy Polamalu.
Cope is one of the most beloved figures in team history. I expected Cope to be part of the inaugural group. The omnipresence of the Terrible Towel speaks for itself.
Cope is dead, so there's no hurry. But - this is putting it delicately - he wasn't universally loved throughout the Steelers organization.
Play-by-play man Bill Hillgrove is. Perhaps he gets in before Cope.
Polamalu not making it in his first year of eligibility is dumbfounding. He can get into Canton starting next year. He's not a lock for that, but is a good bet.
Polamalu is one of football's greatest safeties ever, and easily the Steelers' best at the position. He's on the Steelers' All-Time Team, and on the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s. #TwoRings
Polamalu is more accomplished than any of this year's four inductees. His popularity is overwhelming. Why didn't he make it?
Maybe the Hall is trying to space out prominent honorees for the sake of yearly impact. That didn't seem to be a concern in 2017, but delaying entry of those already in Canton would have been anticlimactic.
But football-wise, there seems no good reason.
Polamalu retired after the 2014 season. He wanted to play in 2015, but the Steelers said no.
Polamalu and the Steelers have had an icy relationship since. Giving a lesser player in James Harrison the benefit of every doubt to continue his career past its usefulness provides drastic contrast, especially when Harrison disrespected the Steelers on many levels before finagling his way to arch-enemy New England in 2017.
Polamalu no-showed the reunion of the Steelers' Super Bowl XLIII-winning team this past December. Perhaps the Steelers were afraid he wouldn't come to the Hall of Honor ceremony.
At any rate, the connection seems fractured. It's a shame, because Polamalu's excellence as a player is matched (perhaps bettered) by his class as a human being. If Polamalu is mad at you, you did something wrong.
The breach needs repaired. Making Polamalu wait to make the Hall of Honor won't help.
Courtesy of Getty Images.